Habitat’s production to increase

Group partners with American Legion post

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 30. 2007 5:00AM PST

Bend Area Habitat for Humanity is hoping to more than double the number of houses it builds this year from last year’s total, and it is looking for families who are hoping to become homeowners.

The organization also is partnering with the Bend post of the American Legion to encourage veterans to apply for a home.

Habitat for Humanity built four houses in Bend in the last fiscal year, Executive Director David Love said. Now, the group has set a goal of building 10 houses by July 2008.

“As you look at the affordable housing crisis in Bend, typically right now a house costs $347,000, a median-price house, and if you take someone at the median income, there’s not a house they can afford in town,” Love said. “We are expecting a 500 percent increase in families applying for our homes only because incomes aren’t rising as fast as the housing prices are.”

Love said that Habitat for Humanity focuses on people who earn between 35 percent and 75 percent of the area’s median income, which in 2006 was about $58,000 for a family of four, according to Economic Development for Central Oregon.

“There’s a lot of things going on for people with less income and things going on for people who are little bit higher than that,” he said.

“We’re not a homeless (housing organization). We’re not emergency crisis. We build homes for people who are living in substandard housing. They might be in a one-bedroom apartment with three children, let’s say, and we build homes for people with jobs who are not able to keep up with it,” Love continued.

Cynthia Jurgensen, development director for Bend Area Habitat, said the organization has been talking with Bend’s Stevens-Chute American Legion Post 4 for a couple of months about working to help a veteran family get involved with Habitat.

The group won’t set aside a house for a veteran family, Jurgensen added. Rather, if one is accepted through the regular application process, the American Legion will be a partner in the process.

“If we get a veteran, then (the American Legion) will engage with us and help us raise the money and they will engage veterans in the community to come out and build the home with us,” she said.

Jurgensen added that Habitat has nine homesites on Daggett Lane in northeast Bend, six of which already have families chosen for them. One of the other three could go to a veteran family. Crook County Habitat for Humanity also is looking for one family for a to-be-built house.

“Once we finish these nine homes, which should be done by end of fiscal year ’08 next July, we still have 10 more homes that we’re in the process of looking to purchase land for or get donated land, and I’m raising money for those homes,” she said.

“The goal of this American Legion partnership is we are looking for legacy partners to build a home with us every year.”

Jeff Lightburn, Stevens-Chute Post 4 commander, said the partnership makes sense for both groups.

“The legion is the nation’s largest veterans organization, and Habitat is the nation’s largest home builder and provider for affordable housing,” Lightburn said. “We’re mentoring veteran families who come forward, and we will help them through this process to be considered for affordable homes, so that’s kind of the first part of this journey.”

Lightburn said he thinks this is the first time in Oregon and maybe the country that the American Legion and Habitat for Humanity have formed a partnership. He added that helping veterans with homeownership is a way of reaching out to many segments of Central Oregon.

“They’re teachers; they are nurses; they are construction industry workers; they are retail workers; they are rest service industry workers. You think of it, a veteran works in all these professions and employment areas, so we’re really touching the entire community,” he said.

“We’re really supporting the community, but are giving an extra boost to people who served our country unselfishly, and when I talk about veterans, it’s not only people who have served in the past, (but) it could include current active-duty people whose families live here, or (people in the) National Guard.”

Habitat for Humanity is holding orientation meetings in late August, which are mandatory for anyone interested in applying for a house. The group is looking for 13 to 15 families in the Bend area and one family for a house in Crook County, Love said.

Jurgensen said that families or individuals who apply go through a credit check and home interview, and the application is then reviewed by a selection committee and Habitat’s board of directors. The time frame between orientation and move-in is usually from 16 to 18 months, according to Bend Area Habitat’s Web site.

“We have a very rigorous process that everyone has to go through and we’re not playing favorites with anyone,” she said. “The families are selected on a need basis — either income or there’s too many people living in a small, substandard living space.”

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